Dana Vollmer was made for the 100 fly. The 28-year-old dominated the race at the 2012 Olympics en route to a new world record, making history as the first female under 56 seconds in a 100m fly.
After the 2013 World Championships, where Vollmer finished with only a bronze, she disappeared from the swimming stage. She had her first child, Arlen, and then announced a sudden comeback last summer. Vollmer’s progression from being seemingly retired to Rio medal contender in under a year’s time is staggering. In July, at her first meet, Vollmer swam a 1:00.05 in the 100 fly. 1:00 is pedestrian for someone of her standing, but she quickly dropped down. First, a 59.1 in prelims at U.S. Nationals in August and a 58.9 in finals. Two 58-lows in November at the Minneapolis Pro Swim Series, and then a 57.95 at Winter Nationals a month later. 5 weeks go by, and Vollmer hits a 57.61 at the Austin Pro Swim Series. And finally in April at the Mesa Pro Swim Series, Vollmer blasted a 56.94.
It’s easy to get caught up in progression and start assuming that Vollmer will just keep getting faster and take over the world– this isn’t to say that she CAN’T or WON’T, but Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom is still in a league-of-her-own globally right now. Still, she’s done some incredible swimming this year, and she has to be the favorite for the win at Olympic Trials.
Kelsi Worrell is the obvious choice for the second spot behind Vollmer. The Louisville swimming alumnus swam a 57.27 at the Mesa Pro Swim Series to finish in a close second behind Vollmer, tying her 2nd-best time ever. Her personal best is only three hundredths faster, a 57.24 done at last summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto which won gold and broke the meet record by almost a second. It’s only a matter of time before she cracks 57 seconds.
That Pan Am Games record that Worrell broke actually belonged to Claire Donahue, who finished 7th in the 100 fly final in 2012. Donahue finished 8th in the 100 fly at the 2013 World Championships and then 6th at the Pan Pac Champs the following year. Last summer, she was a dismal 20th in prelims of the 100 fly at World Champs and didn’t even make it to the semifinals. Donahue’s best time is a 57.42, but she hasn’t been under 58 since 2012. It’s unclear whether or not she can get back to her 2012 form and push for a top spot at Trials.
Another question mark in the women’s 100 fly is Mission Viejo Nadadores’ Katie McLaughlin. The 17-18 NAG record holder in both the 100 and 200 fly was a bright spot in an otherwise sluggish American roster at last summer’s World Championships, finishing 6th in a packed 200 fly final. She was also 57.87 at last year’s Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions. McLaughlin suffered a neck injury during the NCAA season, though, and was only 59.94 at this year’s Crippen meet. She’s improved since the initial injury, but it’s hard to pick her in her weaker of the two butterflies until she’s shown that she’s fully back in shape.
Kendyl Stewart broke 58 seconds at the Pan Pac Champs in 2014, earning a bronze medal. She has been relatively quiet since then, but got under 59 seconds with a 58.84 at the Fran Crippen meet on May 1st. Stewart, like the four mentioned above, is very capable of getting under 58 seconds at Trials.
Two youngsters, Eva Merrell and Cassidy Bayer, will also be in the mix. Merrell and Bayer have both been under 59 in the last year, and should they continue on their track record of improvement, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see both of them in the final in Omaha. Merrell has been under a minute four times this spring (and six times ever, with the other two times swum at Winter Nationals in December) after blasting her 58.58 lifetime best in December at Winter Nationals. Bayer is looking at a potential Olympic berth in the 200 fly, her better race, but first broke the minute barrier at just 13 years of age and has been under a minute a bunch of times. Bayer’s best is a 58.87 from World Junior Champs last summer, but rocketed to a 58.92 at the Mesa Pro Swim Series meet last month, nearly hitting a personal record. Both of these teenagers are very dangerous going into Trials.
A slew of recent NCAA talents should contest for a spot in finals in this race. Felicia Lee graduated from Stanford two seasons ago, and has been 58.14 from 2014. Hellen Moffitt, Janet Hu, and Sarah Gibson all met in the 100 fly final at NCAAs this March. Gibson, of Texas A&M, prevailed with a new personal best of 50.61 to finish 2nd behind Worrell. Hu touched 4th, and Moffitt 5th. Gibson and Moffitt have played with the 59.0 barrier, and are both surely capable of getting past that mark in Omaha. Hu, meanwhile, has never broken 1:00 in an LCM 100 fly. Kelly Naze and University of Kentucky graduate Tina Bechtel have both cracked 59 in the last year, too.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
|Swimmer||Best Time (since 2012 Olympics)||Predicted Time in Omaha|
Dark Horse: Beata Nelson is a short course beast, but has yet to replicate her talent in the big pool. Conversion predictions aside, Nelson is a fierce sprinter who could shock people if she is able to translate her short course success to LCM prowess in Omaha.